Three weeks ago I rode the 4th official Polo Field Smackdown of 2012. I have finished the first 3 PFSD 2012 races, and when I got wind on Twitter of #4 happening the next day, I tweeted the organizer who confirmed #4 was a go. I had skipped TNPR on the previous evening, instead going for an easy city ride, part of which went through GGP. Took off with DSLR camera in my pack and wanted to stop and get some shots of the paceline, which I later heard was ‘sporty’, but opted for a few Polo Field laps followed by a hill and circuitous route back home.
I took off from work at 4 pm, and hopped on the BART. Grabbed my Trek Soho commuter bike at the Bike Link cage in Embarcadero BART station, headed up to the street, and got on my way. 10 minutes along Embarcadero followed by a small climb up North Point and another hill later I was home.
Indecision set in about going out for this event, since my legs weren’t fresh enough for M2 the previous night, but I made the decision to gear up and ride out. I was supposed to hit M2 on Thursday evening also, and I knew that workout was at risk, but it was difficult to pass up. You can’t go shoot hoops with Charles Barkley anywhere, but you can come race against others out of your league at PFSD.
I went into ride prep mode and 10 minutes later I was out the door. No ipod, but I wasn’t going out for a some easy listening. Two bottles and roadie kit, no shoe covers, which put me in the Merckx category. There’s a Merckx category, and Time Trial category, to separate out those who come with aero kits (skinsuit, time trial bike, aero wheels) as opposed to a road racing kit.
I had worn a skinsuit on the first two PFSD events, and I estimate that it saved me between 60 and 90 seconds over the length of the course. However, it also put me in the TT category against guys with pro level TT bikes, Giro Selector helmets, and deep aero wheels made out of carbon. I can’t compete at that level yet, so I decided to go full Merckx and do what I could; I already displaced a lot of air, so I might be able to keep up when I got to know the course.
Showed up close to 6, and after a lap @Cpbike pulled into the start zone and remarked about not too many riders showing up. Though after about 5 minutes, we had probably 5 riders, and lined up to get it on. I was probably third in line, but the honor of starting first was declined until it got to me. I accepted, and made my way to the front. @WednesdayNight told me to stay on inside, so I verified with him that I should let the fast guys go by on the right, and then I was off. An embarrassing left cleat insert fail, and then I sprinted off and hit 27 mph into the first turn.
A good mark for me is correlating the opposite side polo fields tunnel is just under 1 minute on my Garmin. That’s less than a 2 minute lap if I keep a consistent pace and split. Of course, I always want to beat that split, so I’ll adjust my effort based on my half lap time to that tunnel crossing.
The first five laps of this PFSD went by in a blur. In contrast, the first five laps of the first PFSD I rode were so slow that time seemed to have slowed down. Most of my attention was focused on course obstacles as well as staying as far left I could per @WednesdayNight’s instructions. I was close to the fence, and really didn’t want to hit it and crash, as that would have really affected my average time.
The northwest wind slowed us down on the return, but the fence diffused it so we didn’t get a tail wind. Despite this, Jared Hudson set the Cat 3 Merckx course record that day. I was just trying to survive.
On the final lap I made some efforts hoping to beat 29 minutes, a time past which might genuinely get me disqualified from another attempt (because of personal shame, of course). I got out of the saddle and hammered on the finish sprint, but a couple soccer players stepped into the lane as I was about 10 seconds from the finish, so I had to slow down and take a hit on my overall time.
I looked down after I hit the lap button and my Garmin read 29:00. Realized I made the cutoff between slow and embarrassing, and stopped the trip timer at 29:05. So that’s why pfsd measures times on the clock and not fr0m Strava readings. A lot can happen after you hit that lap timer. Plus if you zoom in on Strava, the resolution is a couple seconds, and every second counts.
There are those times in life you look forward to with anticipation; you spend time planning for them because you know that since they’ll be a lot of fun, they won’t last long. Time flies when you’re having fun right? Yesterday I rode the annual Mission Cycling ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, Mad Marchness. I did this ride for the first time a year ago, so I was really looking forward to see a lot of familiar faces and enjoying a great ride, and a social at the Seabright Brewery in Santa Cruz after 92 miles and 6k feet.
I spent most of Friday night prepping for the ride. Figuring out what gear to take, measuring out Perpetuem into ziploc bags, and spending time on details that could very well be bad decisions once I hit the first climb. I hadn’t been feeling so hot most of Friday and didn’t have the appetite for a big pre-ride dinner, so I decided not to put anything into my system that might come back to haunt me the next day, and settled on grilled potatoes and broccoli for dinner. On the menu for Saturday was 4 bottles worth of Perpetuem mix, 3 Hammer gel packs, a Hammer Nutrition bar, and one apple. That was about 1500 calories, or enough for six hours of riding. And about 10 Hammer Endurolytes Fizz electrolyte tablets.
The alarm went off at 6 am, so after 30 minutes of snoozes I rallied for a quick shower and geared up, remembering to put on sunscreen. I had laid out everything the night before so I managed to get fully geared by 7am and rolled out the door without any coffee or breakfast, still wasn’t really hungry. I’d rather go into a ride like this with an empty gastric system rather than one that would require pit stops early on in the ride, a lesson that has taken a while to learn.
I got to Startbucks at 24th and Noe about 7:30 am where a small horde of cyclists were congregating with caffeine in hand. Grabbed a small coffee, signed the release form, and talked with some folks I knew. Some of the riders I could only recognize in their kit, others only by their Twitter handles and hadn’t met in person yet. At 7:50, Kevin rallied everyone for the motivational speech and like that we were on the road.
This ride starts out with a somewhat brutal climb up Clipper street. My legs had cooled off standing around, and started burning on the first climb as I got passed by one rider after another. I tried to keep my effort in check because I knew it would be a long day, but started to get that sinking feeling that I might be dropped from the main group right off the bat. At the top of the climb though, I caught up to about a dozen riders, mostly bigger guys like myself who formed up for the descent down Sloat.
Kept up with the group which I would later learn was chase group A off the lead group as we started the climb up past the Olympic Club to Skyline. I fell behind a bit, then passed two guys who stopped to change a flat. As luck would have it, my steady effort allowed me to catch up to the rest of chase group A who hit a long stoplight, and I rolled by them right as the light turned green. Once we hit Skyline, I hammered down the rollers, and got caught by the rest of the group on the uphill, a strategy that seemed to keep me from getting completely dropped.
Another 15 minutes or so and we hit the multi use path which was basically a neutral section where you had to keep under 15 mph because of all of the pedestrian and runner traffic. After 20 minutes or so we made it the I-280 detour where we had a descent, and another climb up to the I-92 where everyone regrouped and fueled up. Made our way onto Canada road where I felt my legs were finally starting to warm up.
I didn’t know exactly where the sprint section was, but I led the group out from the I-92 intersection and started to put some efforts in. Looking down I saw we were doing about 28 mph and I had about a dozen riders behind me in the paceline. This is something I’m not used to; I usually get dumped out the back of pacelines as opposed to leading them. After a few minutes of effort I rotated off the front, a couple people said thanks as I drifted to the back. I decided to check my heart rate, and to my surprise it was still around 170 when I hit the back of the group. This psyched me out out a bit, and I ended up getting dropped on the uphill section leading to where the actual Strava sprint started. Oh well, live and learn.
I climbed at a medium pace to the part where it was a descent to Robert’s Market, where I put a little more work in. I knew everyone would regroup, and when I got there I filled both bottles, mixed Perpetuem and electrolytes in them, and took down a gel. A lot of people were taking a lunch break, but I didn’t want to wait around too long to get going again, I know that I’d be slow going up Old La Honda, so after about 10 minutes I rolled out with Brent and a few other people to get a head start on the climb.
My time up Old La Honda was a little over 30 minutes, and I got passed by almost everyone, but I wasn’t putting in a grade A effort just yet. I saw Nick ride by, followed by Robert, and I told Robert to go easy on the KOM attempt. I knew they would regroup at the top, so I tried to keep it steady, with the exception of a couple efforts to look good for the camera man, as well as another out of the saddle section motivated by a Mission Cycling member with a cowbell halfway up. That was pure awesomeness. I had a Hammer Gel in the leg band of my bib which I worked my way through on the climb, but my legs were feeling heavy. My indecision on a good dinner choice the night before was hurting me here.
I caught the regroup at the top, and was feeling the climb. After a few minutes of picking up more riders, about 2 dozen of us started the descent down the other side. It was a tight road with uphill cycling traffic, so mostly single file the whole way down. I regretted taking my arm warmers off before the descent, but managed to grab a few seconds at the 84 intersection to get them back on.
Once we hit Highway 84, I knew the next section was downhill until the Pescadero turnoff, and decided to get to work. I’m at the back of the pack climbing hills, but my size helps on the descents. I started making my way to the front of the group which was strung out now, and managed to pickup a few riders in my wake, one of whom later remarked ‘drafting off you going downhill is fun!’ Hearing that put a smile on my face, it feels good to put my talents to use.
The Pescadero turn led to the Haskins climb, where I got separated from the lead group again. When I got to the top I caught up with three other riders there, and after about a minute break we started off on another descent, with a water stop near the end of the descent. There I got to formally meet Steven, Sarah, and Anna, and the four of us headed off again. Riding bikes with 50 people wearing the same kit makes it tough to put faces to names sometimes.
I led out the next section which was slightly downhill with rollers, and I was able to pull everyone along at about 20-25 mph. I started to feel a couple twitches in my quads, then they let me know that serious cramps were coming. I couldn’t slow down my cadence for fear of my legs seizing up, so I kept pushing through this section trying to take down fluids as much as possible so I could keep the legs turning. Later on Cloverdale Steven told me he had a great time on that section surfing my wake, which put another smile on my face.
We turned onto Cloverdale, and I took a turn at the back of the group. My legs were really angry now though, and within a few minutes I was slowly getting gapped by the other three. They saw this though, and thoughtfully waited for me and dropped the pace so I could keep up. Still this was some suffering, but about 10 minutes in we decided to stop for a quick break, which I was really thankful for. I popped another hammer gel and tried to take in more fluids to keep the quad cramps at bay. The rest of Cloverdale was a really fun section where we rode 2×2 and got some good social riding time while still pushing a good pace.
At Highway 1 we stopped off at a gas station to pickup water, where we ran into another rider who gave me 3 sport leg electrolyte pills which I hoped would make my quads shut up. Ten minutes after getting back on the road it seemed to be working, and I got in front again and starting pulling. Getting the pace right was tough, but Steven helped me dial it in from behind me at about 21 mph, which we did for another 30 minutes. We ran across another Mission rider, and as I rode up next to him I smiled and said ‘hop on the train!’. We had half a dozen riders now with the tailwind, and we were making great time down the Cabrillo Highway.
Two riders dropped off the back for a mechanical, but Nils caught up with us just as we were getting into Santa Cruz. I was realizing at this point that I was pretty dehydrated, as my attempts to make small talk on the final stretch weren’t going so well. The five of us got into Santa Cruz, looped down by the ocean, and after a couple of attempts with Google Navigation on my phone we ended up at Seabright Brewery where about 15 other riders were enjoying the sunshine and cold beers. I had some recoverite I had brought in my gear pack, a couple of IPAs, burger, then tried to force down enough water to get my body hydrated again.
The weather was ideal, the company was awesome, and in all it was a perfect ride. I picked up PRs on almost every segment versus last year’s ride, so I credit a lot of that to the M2 Revolution spin classes I’ve been going to as well as putting in more training miles this year. I met some new faces, and caught up with a few I hadn’t seen in a while. Two years ago when I joined Mission Cycling I was looking for awesome people to ride with, and am glad to have found them.